This post is based on episode 145 of the ProBlogger podcast.
Is your obsession with new content hurting your blog?
As bloggers, we tend to focus on what we’re creating now rather than what we created months or even years ago.
Of course, it’s important to put time and effort into creating new content for our blogs. And that’s what we do here with both ProBlogger and Digital Photography School. We want to make those posts useful and practical, and to ensure they’re well edited, attractive to the reader, and optimized for search engines.
It’s good that we do all that. And it’s also good that we promote our new content. We share it on social networks, put it in our newsletter, and encourage engagement through comments on the blog and on social media.
But here’s the thing: The week your post goes live is only the beginning of its life online.
Sure, it will get a spike in traffic for a few days after it’s published. But what happens in the months, years, and potentially decades after you hit ‘publish’ can completely dwarf those first few days.
That’s why evergreen content is so important. I won’t get into creating it too much in this post, but if you want to know more there are plenty of resources on ProBlogger including:
Why Your Archives are an Amazing Asset
If you’ve been blogging for a year or more, your archives probably contain loads of great content that can really help your readers.
It may take a while for your regular readers – particularly the newest ones – to get to those archive posts. But readers who come in from search engines are more than likely to land on one. In fact, when I looked at the Google Analytics for Digital Photography School, the 14 most recent posts got only 15% of the overall traffic. The remaining 85% went to older posts.
So don’t assume your archived posts don’t matter or aren’t useful. They’re almost certainly getting a large share of your traffic.
And don’t assume the people who subscribe to your newsletter or keep coming back to your blog each week have read them either.
Here’s how to focus more on your archives, which can provide a number of benefits.
Revisiting Archived Posts
Each day on Digital Photography School I look back at what we published six months ago (which will almost always be two separate posts), and ask myself:
#1: Is the content evergreen? If it is, I schedule both posts to be published on Facebook the following day.
#2: Is the post still relevant? If it’s related to a promotion or competition that finished nearly six months ago, or linked to some news that’s no longer relevant, I consider deleting the post.
#3: Are there any mistakes in the post? I look for errors in the post – factual errors, spelling mistakes, broken image, embedded tweets that no longer work, and anything else.
#4: Could I (or my team) improve the post? Maybe it can be enhanced by updating the image or adding some additional formatting to the text. It may even seem a bit dated. (This doesn’t happen too much with six-month-old posts, but occasionally I need to make tweaks to keep them up to date.)
#5: Could we link the post to newer content, or link to it from newer content? This helps readers find their way deeper into the site. (It also helps a bit with search engine optimization.)
#6: Does the post need additional optimizing for SEO? This means looking at how it’s ranking on Google and potentially tweaking the titles and keywords, or even the alt tags used for the images in the post.
#7: Could we publish a follow-up post tackling the same topic? If the original post got a lot of discussion going, the questions in those comments sometimes give me an idea for a fresh post. Or maybe I’ll ask one of our writers to write a post that takes a different angle.
#8: Is it worth repurposing the post into a new medium? If the post has done really well, I consider whether it’s worth turning the content into a podcast or video.
#9: Does the post need a new call to action? Sometimes the call to action we used six months ago is no longer relevant, and we may want to promote a new Facebook group we’ve started or new product we’ve released instead.
#10: Do any comments need to be dealt with? This where I delete any spam that has managed to slip through the moderation system. It also gives me the opportunity to reply to comments I haven’t responded to yet.
#11: How is the post performing in Google Analytics? If the post has a lot of comments, or gets new comments regularly, I might look in Google Analytics to see how it’s performing. If it’s doing well, it’s a sign I need to pay attention to that post. For instance, I might be able to get it ranking even better.
As I go through these questions, I usually find the posts only need a few small tweaks. But even if I don’t update it, looking at that post helps me put it to the front of my mind.
Repeating the Process So You Cover All Your Posts Annually
Once I’ve done this for the posts from six months ago, I do it again with the posts from 12 months ago.
I get into a rhythm when I do it, so it only takes me a couple of minutes to look over each post.
I then go back 18 months, 24 months, 30 months, and so on – right back to the start of the blog in 2006.
All up it takes me about an hour. And it’s one of the most valuable things I do each day.
I look at every post in our archive (of more than 6,000) at least twice a year. And many of them get little tweaks along the way.
You might want to try a different system, such as looking only at the posts published one and two years ago. Or you have some other way of looking at posts in your archives – some of which you may have forgotten were even there.
Why This Process is So Effective
When I share older posts on social media other people often share them too, which helps to bring in even more traffic.
And updating old posts can help search engines view them more positively – potentially bringing in a lot more traffic over time.
I also get loads of new ideas when I do this. For instance, if I see that posts on a particular topic are doing really well, I might think about creating additional content. A while ago we realized a lot of our Digital Photography School posts on Adobe Lightroom were doing especially well, which gave us the idea to create a course on Adobe Lightroom.
This process also keeps my archives from looking dated and out of touch. I don’t want 85% of people coming to my blog thinking “Meh, this is no good. It’s out of date”.
You may not have an hour a day to devote to this. That’s fine. Make a start anyway. Even spending ten minutes on one post in your archives each day can make a huge difference over time.
I’d love to hear how you maintain your archives and keep older posts up to date (and visible to your current audience). Feel free to share your tips in the comments.
Image credit: Matthew Dockery